30 baseball books in 30 days of ’10: Day 15 — Emma, will you marry me?


The book: “90% of the Game Is Half Mental: And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom”

The author: Emma Span

The vital stats: Villard Books, 166 pages, $15 (paperback)

Find it: Take your pick at her blogsite (linked here) called “Eephus Pitch”


The pitch: This seems crazy, but I remember seeing her on “Jeopardy!” Am I nuts? Rather, what is, am I nuts? Apparently not. There’s a website with a “Jeopardy!” contestant data base, and it says she was on Season 26 — Oct. 12, 2009.

It was the kinda unusual name that stuck. Sounds like a bridge you cross somewhere in Georgia.

Anyway …

In the intro, she writes: “People will compare almost anything (to baseball). Over the years, I’ve heard that baseball is like a poker game, that marriage is like baseball, that sex is like baseball, that baseball is like Darwinism, that baseball is like war, and — most of all — that baseball is really, when you think about it, a lot like life. I’ve even caught myself starting to say that once or twice myself, and the comparison is tempting. But it’s not true: Baseball is nothing like life, which is why it’s so great.”

Why has that paragraph never been written before?

“The game thrives on unfounded nostalgia, wild exaggeration and pure bullshit, which has always been part of its charm.”

You kiss your boyfriend with that potty mouth? Keep going …

As a sports writer for The Village Voice, she said she found out: “LIke many other neat-sounding jobs, close to three-fourths of it consists of basically standing around. Baseball writers, thanks to the powers of the otherwise largely useless Baseball Writers Association of America, get considerably more locker room time than writers in any other main sport … in theory, this is an excellent opportunity for the press and their subjects to spend a lot of time talking and building strong, trusting, mutually beneficial relationships. In practice, most of the players spend additional time in their private lounge and training room, and so the writers stand around in clusters and gossip.”

She so knows me.

How baseball pulled this self-proclamed geeky Yale grad closer, then farther from her dad, got her through other troubled times and affected her grades while in college is what this diary/time on the couch is all about for the twenty-something.

And as for “Jeopardy!” … She admits in her bio that while she was on the show, “she missed an easy question about Mickey Mantle, claiming that ‘the buzzer timing was really tricky.'”

More reviews: From author Jeff Pearlman: “In a modern journalistic era pocked by snark and sarcasm, Span offers up a riveting glimpse at the absurdity–and splendor–of modern sports. Were this book a mustache, it would be Don Mattingly’s–circa 1988.”

And Will Leitch, author of “God Save The Fan” and former Deadspin.com editor: “She writes about baseball the way I wish everyone would write about baseball.”


How it goes down in the scorebook: Span says her dad always told her: “The world is full of peckerheads, toothless ducks and midgets. Don’t let them get you down.” I’m about to have a plaque made of that quote and stick it on my bathroom mirror.

More: She’s on Linked in (linked here). And follow her on Twitter (linked here). A recent post: “I’m so glad Joe West has done what nine decades of baseball rivalry hasn’t. He’s united Yankees and Red Sox fans in a common cause.”

Also: Keep an eye out for Span’s other new book, “New York, New York: A Season With the Mets and the Yankees” (linked here).

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email